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Native Fish Subcommittee

The GYCC Native Fish Subcommittee was established in 2009.

Subcommittee Mission: 

Our mission is to work cooperatively to maintain, enhance, and restore native fish populations, and other native aquatic species and their habitats in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA).

Subcommittee Leadership: 

Chair - Clint Sestrich, Absaroka Beartooth Zone Fisheries Biologist, Custer Gallatin National Forest,

Vice-Chair - Justin Peterson, Fisheries Biologist, Bridger-Teton National Forest,

MOST RECENT MEETING (virtual): 4/8/24, 8:30-12:30

Native Fish: Importance to the Ecosystem

Native aquatic species influence the ecological, social, and economic sustainability of the GYA in many ways. Each species fills an important ecological niche based on its geographic distribution, habitat requirements, aquatic community interactions, and its position in the food chain. For example, cutthroat trout eat drifting aquatic macroinvertebrates, many of which feed on photosynthetic algae. In turn, a variety of avian and wildlife species including eagles, osprey, grizzly bears, and otters prey on this keystone species. Less charismatic native fish like sculpin, chub, dace, and sucker species also fill unique niches in aquatic food webs. Western pearlshell mussels, which rely on native fish, clean large volumes of water by straining organic matter out of the water column, provide nutrients to benthic organisms, and are an important food source for terrestrial wildlife such as
raccoons, skunks, bears, and shorebirds.

From alpine headwaters to large rivers, managing for widely distributed and stable aquatic species populations contributes to a wide variety of GYA ecosystem services including recreation, tourism, water supply, water quality, erosion prevention, and climate regulation. For millennia, indigenous people have utilized freshwater mussels as food and their shells for making buttons, jewelry, and tools.

Native Fish: Status and Trends in Greater Yellowstone

The status and trends of native aquatic species in the GYA varies considerably based on geographic distribution, habitat requirements, stressors, and threats. Status assessments exist for each of the four cutthroat trout subspecies (Bonneville, Colorado River, Westslope, and Yellowstone), but many GYA aquatic species lack sufficient data to assess population status and trends. In general, the distribution of native fish populations in the GYA has decreased substantially from the time of European
colonization. Emerging tools such as environmental DNA (eDNA) are permitting distribution updates of species for which traditional sampling/monitoring methods are ineffective or deleterious.

Publications/Products Produced:

The North Fork Shoshone River Trout Spawning Season, Shoshone National Forest StoryMap, January 28, 2021.

Greater Yellowstone Climate-Aquatics Workshop: Report from the April 27–29, 2021, Climate-Smart Conservation Workshop.

GYCC-Fisheries Subcommittee Project Checklist (PDF) (Word)


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